I like to think I'm a positive guy and can find a silver lining in most every dark cloud. It's only the third game of the year and there's still a lot of football left to be played. Auburn's embarrassing performance against Penn State on Saturday getting pushed around and run out of their own stadium 41-12 qualifies as inclement weather. However, after intently searching high and low for the slightest ray of sunshine, I am completely bereft of positivity. If you are kind enough to read my column and usually look for some reassurance within, this one is probably going to be a little disappointing. The truth can be unpleasant and difficult to take at times, but it will set you free. It would take an entire page to diagnose adequately and thoroughly everything that went wrong against the Nittany Lions.
Of course, I can also sum it up in a few sentences. The offense stunk and turned the ball over four times. The defense got run over, by and through. The coaching staff, who make anywhere from $400,000 and $5.1 million a year, weren't even paying enough attention to realize the first quarter had ended and TJ Finley's interception should have been nullified. Simply put, it was a bad day all the way around.
Normally, I would say it's just one game and the Tigers will lose most games in which they turn the ball over four times, but this wasn't just about the turnovers. Auburn was manhandled at the line of scrimmage by the Penn State front seven. They registered 6 sacks, 11 tackles for loss and an astounding 36 QB pressures. I don't believe OC Eric Kiesau called more than 50 pass plays in the game.
In other words, TJ Finley and Robby Ashford were under immediate distress practically every time the ball was snapped. I've given Finley a hard time and, for the record, I am now even more convinced he gives Auburn zero chance to succeed, but Cam Newton would struggle against those overwhelming odds. It makes for a very difficult situation for everyone when the offensive line can't block anyone. It doesn't matter what plays are called or who runs them. The coaching staff's bizarre decision-making isn't helping matters.
Tank Bigsby is undoubtedly the biggest weapon on offense, and he only touched the ball 11 times during the game. Landen King may have the best hands of any receiver I've seen at Auburn since Lawyer Tillman, and he has only been targeted twice in three games. When asked why these players weren't touching the ball more after the game, the coach literally replied, "I don't know, but we need to get them the ball more." Reckon who does know Coach?
Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about Saturday is that Penn State is far from the best team Auburn will play in the following weeks. That, and I'm just not sure how many of the Tigers problems are easily correctable. I've never been one to give up on a season and especially this early, but I honestly haven't seen anything in the first three weeks to give me hope things are going to get better. In fact, it's very likely things are going to get much, much worse. I no longer believe it's a matter of if Harsin survives the season, but merely when his exit will occur and how much his buyout will cost the university.